A Seller’s Guide to the Order Fulfilment Process

December 6, 2023
5 min read

What Is Order Fulfilment? Your Complete Guide

Key points

  • Order fulfilment involves all essential tasks, from assembling an order to ensuring it reaches its destination on time.

  • Customer satisfaction and the success of your brand rely on order fulfilment.

  • There are best practices you can follow to help overcome order fulfilment challenges.

  • One of the simplest ways to overcome order fulfilment challenges is to outsource the process to a third-party provider.  

The success of your brand, profitability and ability to keep customers loyal rely on order fulfilment. In an increasingly competitive landscape with more informed clients, efficient order processing is essential for businesses wanting to stay ahead of the competition and ensure customer satisfaction.

What Does Order Fulfilment Mean?

Order fulfilment is what completes the delivery process. It involves all essential tasks, from assembling an order to ensuring it reaches its destination on time – backed by solid processes for optimal efficiency.

An efficient order fulfilment process is critical to the success of any business. It involves a series of steps that take you from strategic sourcing to shipping.

Fulfilment involves essential components such as inventory management, supply chain management, order processing, quality control and customer support – all to ensure your customers receive their orders in perfect condition.

Best Practices for Order Fulfilment 

  • Consistent order fulfilment can be made easier and more efficient when organised appropriately. To ensure success, prioritise the organisation of the fulfilment product as the key factor for achieving optimum results.

  • A well-managed warehouse is a crucial component to the success of any business; it enables efficient product fulfilment while providing customers with quick, reliable service. Small businesses often do their own in-house handling. In contrast, large enterprises may require more intricate strategies throughout their distribution centres – all working towards a common goal: getting packages into customers’ hands as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.

  • To ensure your customers get their orders promptly and economically, it is essential to have a shipping and logistics plan in place. Consider including backup strategies for mitigating any potential disruption or drastic rate changes.

  • Consider streamlining your business operations to unlock greater efficiency with automation. Automation helps reduce labour costs and improve working conditions while providing an extra layer of safety to ensure effective product fulfilment.

  • Position your most requested items at the fore and near pickers or packers to maximise efficiency. Strategically arrange other products throughout your warehouse according to their frequency of demand, reserving those with minimal requests for the back end.

Order Fulfilment Process Steps

Fulfilling orders is a complex, multi-step process that involves managing inventory, streamlining supply chains and processing customer requests. Quality control procedures ensure satisfaction with every order placed to provide customers peace of mind when making product exchanges or returns.

1. Receiving Inventory

Ensuring goods are securely and accurately received, counted and inventoried lies at the heart of any successful organisation. Whether arriving from an external third-party supplier or internally within departments, inventory must be inspected for quantity accuracy and quality to guarantee it meets company standards. Bar codes or SKUs support a streamlined process that smooths out product retrieval in the future – creating confidence around receiving goods now and keeping them secure later on.

2. Inventory Storage

The fulfilment management centre is a bustling hub of organised activity, where goods are quickly inventoried and managed to help ensure that customers receive their orders promptly. Goods may be maintained for short-term stocking or sent directly out – all part of helping keep today’s marketplace running.

3. Order Processing

Order processing to fulfil orders is integral in the online marketplace, enabling customers to receive their desired goods seamlessly. An advanced order management system allows for efficient product picking and packing activities per each customer’s individual request; integrated with a shopping cart on eCommerce websites, this software helps streamline ordering processes.

4. Picking

A picking team or intelligent warehouse robots use packing slips to quickly and accurately pick items from shelves based on SKUs, colours, sizes and quantities. Using automated robots ensures that orders are fulfilled at lightning-fast speed.

5. Packing

A packing team or automated robots carefully select materials to minimise the dimensional weight of a package, as every inch counts when it comes to utilising space on delivery trucks. This process optimises transportation speed while potentially reducing costs.

To ensure a hassle-free shopping experience, packing teams also provide customers with the materials necessary for exchanging or returning orders along with all those precious items ordered.

6. Shipping

A customer’s order is quickly on its way with the help of transport lines, airlines, Royal Mail and couriers like DHL, FedEx and Hermes. To ensure cost-effective shipments, each item goes through an evaluation process that determines whether billable costs are based on either actual or dimensional weight—whichever is greater.

Shipping efficiently is a must to keep delays from arising and costs low. Lightweight items, such as t-shirts, should be appropriately packed in the lowest dimensional weight pricing for optimal profits according to the carrier’s regulations. Doing so can ensure that your packages are sent quickly and cost-effectively.

7. Returns Processing

Quality control checks are in place to ensure only items suitable for restocking make it back on shelves – ensuring the returns process is managed with care. Upon return, products undergo assessment and can be either restocked for resale, returned to a vendor or manufacturer for credit/refunds, or sent off for recycling – depending on their condition.

Challenges in Order Fulfilment 

Challenges in order fulfilment can take a myriad of shapes and sizes, from insufficient supplies to inadequate logistics strategies, ultimately creating disruptions within the supply chain.

The cost of not managing stock effectively can be devastating – from damaging consumer experiences to hurting a brand’s reputation. Fortunately, there are exceptions. For example, prolonged supply shortages caused by natural disasters often get the benefit of customer understanding and forgiveness.

Delivering products on time and in the right condition is essential for customer satisfaction, which can directly impact a company’s profitability. Closely monitoring end-to-end performance from warehouse to door or mailbox/locker helps ensure that shipments don’t go astray and items remain undamaged – making logistics planning an area of business operations that should not be overlooked.

Balancing supply and demand can be a tricky endeavour. More stock is needed, and you risk being unable to meet customer requirements; too much inventory on hand pushes up storage costs and increases the chance of obsolescence if trends change suddenly. Demand planning is essential for any business – it allows you to carefully forecast future needs to ensure adequate supplies without overloading your shelves with unnecessary products.

A well-crafted supply chain strategy can be essential to business success. A great example is when a company decides on one supplier for their product, allowing them to gain cost savings with higher purchase volume and priority status in times of high demand. Unfortunately, any issues posed by the vendor, such as employee strikes or natural disasters, could severely impact availability through a single source model if not properly managed.

Effective supply chain execution requires an effective combination of sophisticated software solutions to manage every aspect, from material flow and physical movement tracking to data sharing and financial transactions. 

To ensure success in Supply Chain Execution operations, companies must take advantage of the capabilities offered by specialised applications such as order management systems, inventory control platforms and warehouse-level automation. Leveraging these technologies ensures efficient coordination between all parties across the entire supply chain network for maximum efficiency along each step in the process.

Options for Order Fulfilment

Regarding eCommerce order fulfilment, businesses must weigh different factors in choosing the best approach for their needs. Some of the most popular methods are outsourcing to a third-party provider, executing merchant fulfilment or dropshipping products – all offering varying advantages and challenges depending on your business requirements. Ensure you consider every angle before selecting which strategy is right for your company’s success.

1. Outsourcing to a Third-Party Provider

The first option is to entrust your fulfilment services to the expertise of an external partner. This will allow you to streamline inventory management, maximise cost efficiency with optimised picking lists and enjoy quick shipment for customers – all without taking away from key business processes.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the complexity of managing your product fulfilment – outsourcing to a third-party logistics provider (3PL) can automate time-consuming tasks, giving back valuable resources needed to expand and grow. Instead of dedicating energy toward mundane supply chain operations, reallocate those efforts into scaling up your organisation’s success.

Let's look at two examples:

Locally: Perhaps you’re a small UK drinks brand that requires third-party fulfilment services in the United Kingdom. However, you want to focus on improving your product and marketing efforts. Using a third-party logistics company will provide more buying power, extensive carrier networks and lower transportation rates. 3PLs also help reduce the rate of returns, claims, shipping errors and lost sales.

Internationally: Say you’re an Australian brand that is looking to expand into the UK and Europe and requires a 3PL and fulfilment services. Your customers love the convenience of online shopping, and you want to make sure their orders are taken care of quickly. So instead of completing order fulfilment by spending a lot of time, effort and money on picking, packing and shipping, you can use a 3PL to take care of this on your behalf.

2. Using Merchant Fulfilment

Merchant fulfilment is an attractive option for many eCommerce brands on the rise, as they can take complete control of their order fulfilment process. Known by other names such as in-house or self-fulfilment, this strategy allows sellers to store and package orders from a single location without relying upon third parties. As with any business venture, there are pros and cons associated with merchant fulfilment – weighing them carefully will ensure success.

As your business grows, the volume of orders may reach a point where more than home fulfilment is needed to keep up. At this stage, you have two main choices: take on the costs and complexity associated with self-fulfilment or hand over operations to an experienced 3PL. 

Opting for a 3PL service can be more cost-effective than investing in infrastructure such as warehouses, labour, equipment, etc., so it is often seen as a preferred choice for businesses looking for scalability.

3. Choosing Dropshipping

Dropshipping is convenient for businesses that don’t want to be bogged down by the burdens of inventory production and order fulfilment. This system immediately sends orders from manufacturers to customers with no stops in between – taking the hassle out of operations while still providing high-quality service.

Dropshipping presents an attractive, low-cost opportunity for budding eCommerce businesses—but it does come with significant tradeoffs. Most notably, manufacturers are often located overseas, which can lengthen shipping times and drive up costs. Additionally, merchants have minimal control over the supply chain; inventory management and order fulfilment may prove challenging to manage from afar.

The negatives of both merchant fulfilment and dropshipping make outsourcing to a third-party provider the best all-around option.

The Benefits of Outsourcing Order Fulfilment to a Third-Party Provider

eCommerce order fulfilment can be an incredibly complex and time-consuming process involving several different parties, all of which have their unique challenges and pain points. The main challenge lies in coordinating between these various stakeholders to ensure that orders get fulfilled as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

Outsourcing order fulfilment through a third-party shipping and fulfilment provider like Bezos saves time and money with streamlined storage, picking, packing and delivery. Our services provide customers with complete transparency and control over their orders via an easy-to-use dashboard. From storage through delivery, we will take care of every step along your client’s journey to ensure a seamless experience from start to finish.

We are providing small and medium businesses with a playing field that was previously exclusive to larger corporations. Our order fulfilment services are unlocking unprecedented scalability and prices – enabling you to grow faster than ever before.

Plus, easily integrate Amazon inventory management services into your existing eCommerce platforms such as Shopify, WooCommerce, Squarespace and many more for even more convenience.

With Bezos' powerful order management system, you can save time and money. Our streamlined process offers a hassle-free solution for businesses of all sizes looking to streamline their operations and save time without breaking the bank. Our services also create efficient and effective unit economics, enabling you to drive down the costs associated with order fulfilment and delivery. 

Customer experience is a key factor in the success of any eCommerce order fulfilment system. It involves every step of the process, from the moment a customer places an order to the moment they receive their package and everything that happens in between. The overall customer experience should be seamless, efficient and enjoyable for all parties involved. Bezos helps brands improve their customer experience through more accurate and reliable fulfilment and delivery.

Get your free quote and take advantage of Bezos’ expert service and advice. Unlock savings and the key to better customer satisfaction today! 

In Closing

Order fulfilment is an essential part of business operations and involves a variety of key considerations. We examined the definition, best practices, and eight steps to success as well as understanding potential challenges you may face in its implementation process. Lastly, we explored how outsourcing your order fulfilment can be advantageous for any organisation looking to increase flexibility and efficiency with their logistics workflow.


What is the importance of order fulfilment?

Companies make money by selling goods, products and services to businesses or direct to consumers. No matter whether you’re B2B or D2C, the sale is not complete until that customer receives the sold fulfilment sales items. Order fulfilment is how companies complete the deal and is at the heart of every business.

What is an example of order fulfilment?

Your eCommerce store is the bridge between your supplier and customers. Your fulfilment team ensures that customer orders are quickly picked and packed with all necessary documents like shipping labels and returns forms before swiftly being sent off to their destinations.

Is fulfilment the same as shipping?

With shipping, your products are expertly transported to customers' doors. Fulfilment services offer the opportunity for an optimised process when it comes to receiving and delivering orders with unparalleled accuracy and efficiency.

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